95 years ago today: Good trap, Darb!

An Aeromarine 39B piloted by Chevalier is seen just before it touches down on the flight deck of USS Langley (CV-1) on 26 October 1922 – the first landing aboard an American aircraft carrier. Via National Naval Aviation Museum.

An Aeromarine 39B piloted by Chevalier is seen just before it touches down on the flight deck of USS Langley (CV-1) on 26 October 1922 – the first landing aboard an American aircraft carrier. Via National Naval Aviation Museum.

Born 7 March 1889 in Providence, Rhode Island, the bespectacled Godfrey de Courcelles Chevalier graduated from the Annapolis in 1910, and volunteered for flying duty after a heroic stint on the battleship USS New Hampshire (BB 25), taking part in Naval aviation’s first fleet deployment to Guantanamo Bay in 1913 with a Curtiss A type airplane.

Appointed a Naval Air Pilot on 7 November 1915 he piloted the first plane to be launched by catapult, from the armored cruiser USS North Carolina on 12 July 1916.

Commanding the first naval air station in France, at Dunkerque during WWI, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal and subsequently became a Naval Aviator (Number 7) on 7 November 1918, just four days before the end of the Great War.

Godfrey "Darb" de Courcelles Chevalier, Naval Aviator No. 7, in the pilot's seat of early aircraft at Perdido Beach, Alabama, circa 1914. Hunter Brown is his passenger (may be seen bareheaded at intersection of engine block and propeller), and Charles W. Virgin (in bathing suit) is at right. NH 70285

Godfrey “Darb” de Courcelles Chevalier, Naval Aviator No. 7, in the pilot’s seat of early aircraft at Perdido Beach, Alabama, circa 1914. Hunter Brown is his passenger (may be seen bareheaded at intersection of engine block and propeller), and Charles W. Virgin (in bathing suit) is at right. NH 70285

As a pioneer in Naval Aviation, he was a part of the trans-Atlantic flight of the NC Aircraft in 1919, helped with the fitting out of the former collier USS Jupiter into the Navy’s first carrier, USS Langley.

It was aboard the inaugural flattop that Darb touched down on this day in 1922 for the first time, shown in the first image above.

Sadly, he would die from injuries received in an aviation accident in Virginia just 19 days later, ending his promising career at age 33.

The Navy named two destroyers after their first carrier-man: DD-451, a Fletcher-class destroyer sunk in 1943 and DD-805, a Gearing-class destroyer struck in 1975; as well as Chevalier Field at NAS Pensacola which remained in use until the 1990s and is now site of the barracks for the Naval Air Technical Training Center.

The wings pictured belonged to Lieutenant Commander Godfrey Chevalier, Naval Aviator Number 7, who was the first to trap on board a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier. They are in the collection of the National Naval Aviation Museum

The wings pictured belonged to Lieutenant Commander Godfrey Chevalier, Naval Aviator Number 7, who was the first to trap on board a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier. They are in the collection of the National Naval Aviation Museum

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